“I believe that, with regard to both the tragic aspect of suffering and instances of extreme ecstasy and affirmation of life, art needs to have a sense of sacred solemnity.” (Hermann Nitsch)
This was a stunning opening to the 2010 concert-going season. Since, for whatever reason, Peter Hammill didn’t make it to Vienna on his European tour, it was a no-brainer to make the short journey over to Linz for my first visit there. The venue, the Posthof, was a very pleasant place indeed, not least because of its wacky location in what appeared to be an industrial estate on the bank of the Danube, miles from the centre of town. Good vibes, nice food, laid-back management (I was able to reserve a seat in the front row by the simple expedient of walking into the hall before the doors opened, while others were able to wander in and listen to the soundcheck), perfect acoustics and a lovely Bosendorfer grand piano for Peter to play. If only all venues could be like this.
Thanks to Joseph Stannard for his comprehensive King Crimson survey, although he showered a little too much love on the 1981-84 incarnation of the group for my liking. Where Stannard hears “a hive of small sounds in constant motion”, I just hear Adrian Belew needlessly emoting over pallid jackets-with-sleeves-pushed-up funk, all the while playing guitar to sound like an elephant – and not in a good way, either.
Crimson don’t need a second guitarist, as is amply demonstrated by the ProjeKcts albums (on which Belew played V-drums). Stannard could have said more about these releases, which showcase Fripp’s most satisfying and avant-garde work since the 70s. According to Fripp, the ProjeKcts were supposed to serve as “research & development” for Crimson, but given that so few of the resultant approaches made their way into later Crimson albums the validity of this statement must be in doubt. Fripp could easily have gone against the grain of his audience’s expectations by keeping up with the mix of volatile Improv and irresistible electronic dance beats that characterised the ProjeKcts sessions. What irks me is that he chose to play it safe the next time he went out as Crimson – discarding the innovations of the ProjeKcts and retreating instead into a greasy rehash of former glories.
The news that Michael Gira is resurrecting the Swans name for an album and tour this year is scarcely believable but overwhelmingly thrilling. I just want to bump this piece, ostensibly a review of a 2008 solo show in Vienna by Gira, but really some kind of fumbling towards an explanation of why Swans are so hugely important and special to me. For this and other reasons, 2010 is shaping up to be a beautiful year.
Here’s some kind of list of the 2009 releases that made the most impression on me last year.
1. Peter Hammill, Thin Air
2. Naked Lunch, Universalove
3. The Thing, Bag It
4. Fire,¹ You Liked Me Five Minutes Ago
5. Ken Vandermark & Paal Nilssen-Love, Chicago Volume/Milwaukee Volume²
6. Full Blast,³ Black Hole
7. Steven Wilson, Insurgentes
8. Æthenor, Faking Gold and Murder
9. Christina Carter, Seals
10. Alela Diane, To Be Still
1. Fire is Mats Gustafsson, Johan Berthling and Andreas Werliin.
2. Released as two single CDs, but it’s hard not to think of them as a double.
3. Full Blast is Peter Brötzmann, Marino Pliakas and Michael Wertmüller.